As the dust for the 2019 general elections finally settled Saturday, 13 April with the conduct of supplementary polls in four state constituencies of Rivers State – Gokana, Opobo/NKoro, Ahoada and Abua/Odual, electoral battle has been shifted to Kogi and Bayelsa States.
This is as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC announced its decision to conduct the governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States on Saturday November 2, 2019.
Kogi and Bayelsa are among the seven States – Anambara, Edo, Ekiti, Osun, where off-season elections are conducted due to previous judicial pronouncements that sacked past governors of the States before the traditional expiration of their tenures May, 29 after four years.
For Kogi, the tenure of Governor Yahaya Bello expires 27 January, 2020 while that of Governor Sireake Dickson of Bayelsa State ends February 14, 2020.
In 2015, the Kogi governorship election was conducted November 21 and the Bayelsa State guber polls were held December, 5 but for the 2019, INEC fixed the polls the same date, Saturday, November 2.
According to Festus Okoye, INEC National Commissioner and Chairman, Voter Education and Publicity, “the Commission at its meeting held today(April 9) approved the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the Governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa States which will hold in both States on Saturday 2nd November 2019.
“The official notice for both elections will be issued on 1st August 2019, while political parties that intend to sponsor candidates are to hold their primaries for the nomination of such candidates from 2nd – 29th August 2019.
“Campaigns by Political Parties in public shall commence on 2nd August 2019 and end on 1st October 2019. The parties sponsoring candidates are required to submit the list of their agents not later than 2nd October 2019.
“The stated timelines are in line with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended). All stakeholders are urged to take cognisance of and adhere strictly to them. Details of the Timetable and Schedule of Activities for the election are on the Commission’s website”.
Consequently, Kogi and Bayelsa are now the battle fields for the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP will exert their political might and test their popularity.
In Kogi State, APC through Governor Yahaya Bello who will be contesting for a second term is much on ground just as the party won the presidential election in the State with 285,894 votes against PDP with 218, 207 votes. The PDP led by the outspoken Senator Dino Melaye and former Governor Idris Wada also wields considerable political influence in Kogi.
So far over thirty aspirants across different political parties are jostling for the Lugard House job. In APC 12 aspirants for the party’s ticket include Governor Bello, former President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Sani Lulu, Salihu Atawodi, Retired Air Vice Marshall, Seidu Mohammed Ogah, former Chief of Naval Staff, Usman Jubril, Mohammed Audu, son ofthe late two-term governor of the state, Prince Abubakar Audu, former military administrator of Oyo and Ondo states, Ahmed Usman, former Commissioner for Agriculture and Natural Resources in the state, Tim Diche, Babatunde Irukera, Director General, Consumer Protection Council, George Olumoroti, James Faleke, Member of the House of Representatives and Jubrin Echocho, Senator -elect for Kogi East.
In PDP, at least 21 aspirants have indicated intentions to contest for the party guber ticket. They are the immediate past governor of the State, Idris Wada, former Commissioner for Health, Idris Omede, a legal practitioner, Haruna Abdullahi, Mohammed Tettes, the immediate past deputy speaker of Kogi House of Assembly, Ali Akuh, Abubakar Idris, son of former governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Idris, ex-deputy speaker of the State House of Assembly, Emmanuel Omibije, Yakubu Enape, Joe Erico, Sunday Umoru and Zakare Alfa while Dino Melaye, the outspoken Kogi West Senator was reported to be called to join the race.
Apart from APC and PDP, the Young Progressives Party, YPP is fielding another son of the late Prince Audu, Mustapha Audu and the Social Democratic Party, SDP has Sani Philips as well as Natasha Akpoti gunning for its ticket for the governorship race.
For the APC there are permutations that Bello, like any other serving Governor stands a better chance of getting a return ticket from the APC but his perceived abysmal performance in office as evident in owing civil servants salaries for months may make APC to have a second thought drawing from the experience of PDP/Wada in 2015 when he was allegedly voted out on account of irregular salary payment.
Others are of the opinion that, Bello, an Ibira man, the second majority ethnicity in Kogi only rode to the power through divine providence following the death of Abubakar Audu and the declaration of the November, 2015 Kogi governorship elections and giving him ticket may be risky to APC if PDP gives the same ticket to an Igala man, hence Kogi governorship politics is largely predicated on the majority ethnicity, which could be the reason many Igala people are in the contest for the APC ticket.
In the PDP, some political pundits consider the former Governor Wada, most appropriate candidate hence he already has the political structures to slug it out with Bello while others are reasoned that the memories of his salary arrears are still fresh in the memory of Kogi Civil Servants who form bulk of the voting population, instead, Melaye, though an Okun minority person is being considered for his political sagacity and being the antidote for the somewhat militant Bello, in case APC fields him.
Coming to Bayelsa also, the APC and PDP would yet be in another battle royale to determine which party governs the state which at the moment is under the control of PDP State led by Governor Dickson and backed by former President GoodLuck Jonathan even as the APC is led by former Governor Timpriye Sylva and supported by Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agriculture.
The performance of the two parties in Bayelsa at the just concluded 2019 general elections showed that PDP got 197,933 votes while APC scored 118,821 votes, and APC at least made an impressive performance as the Senatorial candidate of the APC, Degi Wagara won the Bayelsa East where Jonathan hails from while the party’s candidate for Nembe-Brass Federal Constituency, Sunny-Igoli defeated the PDP candidate, Marie Ebikake.
Aspirants are already making moves to cling the APC and PDP ticket to run for the Bayelsa guber race. In the APC, while there are indications that former Governor Sylva will have another shot,
Timi Alaibe, former Managing Director, Niger Delta Development Commission is eyeing the ruling party’s guber ticket.
In the PDP, following the purported zoning of the governorship slot to Bayelsa Central Senatorial District, former Secretary to the State Government under Jonathan administration in the State and former Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Power, Boladei Igali and former SSG to Bayelsa Ex-Governor Depriye Alameiyeseigha, Steve Azaiki are jostling for the party’s guber ticket.
James Kwen, Abuja